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Oro-Medonte responds to criticism of African Church restoration

In Council Watch
Nov 23rd, 2018

From Shawn Binns
Director, Operations and Community Services
Township of Oro-Medonte

I have reviewed the recent article in Springwater News regarding the Oro-African Methodist Episcopal Church (“church”) project (“the project”) in Oro-Medonte.

The Township is very discouraged and disheartened by the comments expressed by Mr. French. Given Mr. French’s comments contained in the article, it is clear that he does not agree with the approach and efforts that were undertaken to stabilize and restore the structure, which is disappointing given the favourable end result of the project. It should be noted and understood that this has been the case from the onset of the project.

Mr. French is certainly entitled to an opinion and to disagree with what he believes is not appropriate. However, the personal opinions expressed in the article by Mr. French are not based on fact. The Township undertakes a factual and accurate approach when conveying information to the public. For this reason, and to provide context and background regarding the project, it is appropriate and important to convey the following information:

1. the project, led by the Township was made possible through the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, funding from Parks Canada, as well as private donations and the hard work and commitment of a significant number of people ranging from volunteers, contractors and historians to various interested parties from all over North America. Mr. French was one of these contributors. His review and assembled collective observations of the church was referenced throughout the project;

2. the restoration of the nearly 170 year structure involved many complexities and required consideration for archaeology, determination of history (what was and what may have been), engineering and building code compliance, building science, the evolution of the church over time and the delicate balance to the stabilization/restoration approach between museum quality exactness vs. ensuring the legibility of the new work from the artifact;

3. the project was completed to Heritage restoration best practice, and Parks Canada’s Standards and Guidelines for National Historic Sites;

4. the project was completed utilizing the skills and expertise of professionals experienced with stabilization and restoration of structures such as the Oro-African Church. This collective group of individuals included: a heritage consultant, heritage architect, an engineering team, archaeological consultants, technical staff within the Township of Oro-Medonte, input from descendants and input from Parks Canada staff. It should be noted that all of these individuals are well-respected in their independent areas of training and expertise;

5. the Township obtained all necessary building permits for required work;

6. the project had extensive controls to ensure effective project management and to ensure the project achieved its objectives; and

7. the project has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades for heritage conservation and community leadership.

I am attaching an information piece that was prepared during the project which will provide you with additional background on the project. https://www.oro-medonte.ca/Pages/Oro-African-Methodist-Episcopal-Church-Re-opened.aspx

Trusting the information above provides clarity regarding the African Church project in Oro-Medonte.

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